Celebrating the Value of Canadian Citizenship
By designating the third week of October as Canadian Citizenship Week, Citizenship and Immigration Canada encourages all Canadians "to reflect on the value of citizenship, what it means to be Canadian and the rights, privileges and responsibilities of citizenship."
Many citizenship ceremonies were held in communities across the country throughout Citizenship Week, in which hundreds of Canadian Permanent Residents took the oath of citizenship and became full-fledged Canadian citizens. "This makes it complete," states one such participant, "I am Canadian." Many Canadian citizens took part in these ceremonies as well, taking the opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to Canada.
It has been sixty years since Canada became the first Commonwealth country to gain its own citizenship legislation. Before Canada's Citizenship Act was established, residents were considered British subjects living in Canada, rather than Canadian citizens. Since then, nearly six million people have been granted Canadian citizenship, about 160,000 every year. "As we celebrate the 60th anniversary, we reflect on the cornerstones of Canadian citizenship – the values of freedom, respect and belonging. These values that are deeply rooted in the Canadian psyche are also expressed in the way we live out lives and build a stronger Canada," states Diane Finley, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
According to the 2001 national census, approximately 84 per cent of eligible immigrants are Canadian citizens. In order to become a Canadian citizen, a person must satisfy several requirements. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, hold Permanent Resident status, and have lived in Canada for at least three years (1,095 days) out of the four years before applying. Legal guardians can apply for children under 18, as long as the guardian is a Canadian citizen or is in the process of obtaining citizenship. Applicants must also have a command of at least one of the country's official languages and have no prohibitive criminal history. Eligible individuals will take a citizenship test, which measures their language abilities and knowledge of Canada (history, geography, political system, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens).
Those who pass the test are rewarded with an invitation to a citizenship ceremony. At these ceremonies, participants officially accept the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship. They proclaim the oath of citizenship and are presented with their certificates of Canadian citizenship.
Canadians are proud to hold one of the most valued citizenships in the world. The following passage is written on the Canadian Bill of Rights – a bill that encompasses the Canadian rejection of discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion, or sex: "I am a Canadian, a free Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think is right, free to oppose what I believe is wrong, free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind."